La Crosse, WI (WXOW)-- There are roughly 5000 foster homes across Wisconsin, housing some 8000 foster children.
News 19 met with a Holmen couple who has been taking in foster kids for about five years. In order to protect the identity of the children, they will not be shown in this piece.
"My granddaughter was born with a rare liver disease and she required constant care and because I was a nurse I just took her in and did all the care that she needed done," said Wendi Johnson, a foster parent.
That's how it started for the Johnsons, taking in their granddaughter. But when she passed away at just six years old, Wendi and Simmon realized they weren't done helping children in need.
"One day we were just throwing the idea around and we just said 'What about doing foster care?'" Wendi said.
Wendi and Simmon took in their first foster kid in August of 2007.
"The first foster child we got was a boy, he was 11," Wendi said. "And him and my son just got along great."
So great that the Johnsons adopted the boy and only a few months later they took on two more foster kids.
Now the Johnson household consists of 1 biological child, 3 adopted and one foster daughter. They also have 3 grown biological children, who don't live at home. But to all the kids, Wendi and Simmon are mom and dad.
"We teach the kids right off the bat that we believe in the philosophy that in our house we are a team," Wendi said. "And everybody functions together for the greater good. Everything is about working together."
And while the Johnson team has strict rules, the top priority is making sure every one knows Wendi and Simmon aren't going anywhere.
"Once you step into our house, you're a part of our family," Wendi said.
But one of their foster kids is 17 and getting ready to go back with her biological family.
"The reunification process can be traumatic for everyone," said Nancy Gonderzik of Lutheran Social Services. "Because they've bonded with our foster families. How do you launch a child without having that emotion?"
"I know I'm going to be sad when she leaves," Wendi said. "But I know that our relationship is very strong. And as long as she knows that I love her and if she ever needs me I'm here, I'm ok with that."
If you are interested in learning more about fostering a child, you can contact Lutheran Social Services at 888-746-2850.
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